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Farm Conservation: Protecting Murdock Farm

Local farmers Frank, Ken, and Ray Girouard have conserved 42 acres of wooded land north of their families’ Murdock Farm.  Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the Town of Winchendon will co-hold a permanent conservation restriction on the land.

For almost fifty years, the Girouards have run the Murdock Farm Dairy Bar, which has offered local Ken Girouard at Murdock Farmfarm-fresh ice cream made by the brothers. One of Winchendon’s most recognized landmarks, the Dairy Bar is set at the edge of the built-up portion of town, where house lots are replaced by open fields and forests heading north to nearby New Hampshire.  The brothers have farmed the land on both sides of Elmwood Road since 1949. 

This is the third parcel of land the brothers have conserved with help from the trust.  The Girouard families began working with Mount Grace and the town to protect their farm in 2007.  “This farm is a special Ray and Ken with tourplace,” says Mount Grace Project Manager Paul Daniello.  “I'm glad to see another piece of it protected. This conservation restriction is part of the Winchendon Springs Working Landscape Project, funded by Massachusetts’ new Landscape Partnership Grant. Thanks to the grant Mount Grace and its project partners—the Town of Winchendon Conservation Commission, Department of Agricultural Resources, the Department of Fish and Game, and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership—will permanently conserve 650 acres of land in Winchendon.”

The new conservation restriction will ensure that the woods, which connect Murdock Farm to more hayfields on Central Street which the Girouards also mow and bale, are protected as open space in perpetuity.  “I’ve always loved walking through those woods,” says Ken Girouard.  “We’ve seen many animals out there over the years: bear, deer, coyote, fox, and moose, and there’s a beautiful view of Mount Monadnock once you come out on the far side of the woods.” 

In 2009, the Girouards sold an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on 99 acres of land to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, ensuring that at least part of the land would remain a working farm. The brothers donated an additional conservation restriction on 72 acres of fields to Mount Grace at the end of that year, and continued to work with the town and the trust to conserve the farm’s remaining acres, which the brothers use for hayfields. 

The 42 acres protected this year are mostly covered by oak, hemlock, and white pine and  contain a small pond and a red maple swamp and small streams running down to the Millers River.